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Take Home vs. Toss: What Makes for Good Tradeshow Swag?

tradeshow swag

So you’re exhibiting at an upcoming trade show, where you hope to attract a ton of high-quality prospects. You’ve got a table or a booth, be it large or small. Forgetting for a minute about what you did PRE-event to promote your event participation, think about what kinds of “swag” you should have at your display to give to passersby.

Swag, in PG terms, is short for “stuff we all get.” If you’ve been to trade shows before, you know you’re going to have salespeople foisting various and sundry objects upon you. And if it’s a major show (think hundreds of exhibiting sponsors, not just one or two dozen), be prepared. You’ll be like that neighborhood kid with a too-small paper bag on Halloween having to face four dozen homeowners tossing candy bars and popcorn balls in your general direction. With luck, that’s what they’re tossing – as opposed to apples or boxes of raisins. (Come on, who among you hasn’t received unappetizing “healthy” snacks on Halloweens of yesteryear, only to pitch them in some darkened neighbor’s yard before you ever reached home?)

So think long and hard before placing that order for 500 pens emblazoned with your company name. What would your ideal customers REALLY get excited about? What juicy booth takeaway would cement your name in their memory once they leave that show?

Toss It?

First, think about the kinds of things businesspeople typically don’t want from exhibitors, and are likely to toss before they leave for home.

It’s too big. If attendees are traveling to your event, they aren’t interested in any swag that’s too big to carry around while they’re at the show or pack and take home with them. So stay away from those oversize posters and bulky gifts that can’t easily be tucked away in a purse or in the show tote bag.

It’s too heavy. Similarly, don’t give away stuff that weighs a ton. Attendees may be polite and take one to go, but as soon as you’re out of sight they’ll toss it in a bin. If your samples or exquisite swag is drop-dead-to-die-for, offer to send it. Take a business card (or scan their contact info) and ship the item post-show. It’s another reason to get in touch, isn’t it?

It’s too ordinary. Everyone already has a favorite water bottle. Those squishy stress balls are meaningless most of the time. And the small, off-the-shelf calendars (the kind you used to get at a bank) are never used. Ix-nay these tired, old gift ideas.

Or Take It Home?

What are traits of swag that visitors would LOVE to have – and would be sure to take home?

Give them something relevant. Who’s attending the show? What business tool or book would help them on their job? Make it meaningful.

Give them something personal. Not many of us turn down something that has our name on it. If you get a list of attendees ahead of time, prepare personalized note cards, posters, or calendars. How about personalized Post It notes?

Give them something that relates to the location. If you’re in a major city, there are maps, guidebooks, sports team items, restaurant guides, and other memorabilia that attendees could use and thank you for, ever after. Are there maps showing walking tours or printed hiking trails? How about other location-related gifts that you could produce or buy in bulk for your booth?

Give them a chance to win something big! What about a raffle for a grand prize, or lottery tickets, or dinner for two in a fabulous local restaurant?

Give them something everyone at a trade show could use. Maybe it’s a thumb drive. Or a small bottle of hand sanitizer. Or a coupon for a free drink at one of the show’s concession stands.

Bottom line?

Spend some time figuring out what ‘sweet swag’ you can give away at your next trade show. Make these items meaningful and memorable so that they’ll be kept, used, and talked about – not tossed or left behind in hotel rooms.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Topics: tradeshow tips event marketing